High Tech vs. High Context

by John Goldberg

Activity Summary

Two volunteers attempt to communicate a difficult issue to each other, one orally and the other in writing.


-To highlight the relative effectiveness of resolving difficult issues using a high context method of communication (such as face-to-face conversation) with a low context method (such as email or text messages).

Group Size

Any number                

Time Required

10 minutes


  • Several sheets of blank 8 ½ x 11” paper.
  • Two pens or pencils.

Physical Setting

A room that enables two participants to sit near one other where all other participants can see and hear them.


  1. Welcome participants and tell them they are going to engage in an activity about communicating in the workplace.
  2. Ask for two volunteers.
  3. Ask the volunteers to sit near each other where all other participants can see and hear them.
  4. Ask each of the volunteers to come up with a difficult issue or problem that needs to be communicated to the other volunteer.
  5. Ask each volunteer to prepare to communicate his or her issue to the other volunteer with the intent of resolving the matter. This preparation is to include a brief, legible written statement of the problem.
  6. Ask the volunteers to talk for three minutes about one volunteer’s issue with the intent of resolving it.
  7. Ask the other volunteer to hand his or her written statemenof the problem to the first volunteer.
  8. Ask the volunteer who receives the statement to read it out loud and prepare a written response that he or she gives to the volunteer with the problem.
  9. Continue this written and reading out loud process for three minutes.
  10. Conduct a debriefing discussion with the following questions:
  • Which of the two methods was more successful in working toward a solution to a problem?
  • Which of the two methods do you usually use when communicating with your colleagues?
  • How can you use what you learned today?

About the Author

John Goldberg provides training in leadership, communication, teamwork, and career and personal development. He served as Manager, Organization Development for a Fortune 500 company. John teaches at the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management. He is active in the California Network of Learning Professionals. John lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children.

Contact information: John Goldberg, MBA, 442 T Street, Sacramento, CA 95818-2122. Telephone: (916) 444-3353. Email: johngoldberg@hotmail.com. Website: JohnGoldberg.com